Card. Piacenza interviewed

On ZENIT there is part 1 of an interview with His Eminence Mauro Card. Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

I have heard Card. Piacenza speak several times and I was impressed.  He has issued some good things as Prefect of Clergy, including the guide for confessors entitled The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy – An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors.  I wrote about that here.

In the interview, Card. Piacenza tackles some good questions.  Here are the questions.

  • ZENIT: Your Eminence, over the past decades, with surprising regularity, the same set of ecclesial questions resurface in public debate like clockwork. How can we explain this?
  • ZENIT: Is women’s ordination to be understood as a doctrinal question?
  • ZENIT: So, is there no place for women in the Church?
  • ZENIT: But can someone really participate in the life of the Church without having effective power and responsibility?
  • ZENIT: Doesn’t Rome have too much power?
  • ZENIT: Doesn’t this role that Rome plays hinder unity and ecumenism?

Let’s look at one of these with my emphases.

ZENIT: So, is there no place for women in the Church?

Cardinal Piacenza: On the contrary, women have a most important place in the ecclesial Body and they could have one that is even more evident. The Church is founded by Christ and we human beings cannot decide on its form; therefore the hierarchical constitution is linked to the ministerial priesthood, which is reserved to men. [Note anything missing?] But there is absolutely nothing to prevent the valuing of the feminine genius is roles that are not linked with the exercise of Holy Orders. Who would stop, for example, a great woman economist from being head of the administration of the Holy See? Who would prevent a competent woman journalist from being the spokesman of the Vatican press office? The examples could be multiplied for all the offices that are not connected with Holy Orders. There are tasks in which the feminine genius could make a specific contribution! [How would being a head of administration of the Holy See or papal spokeswoman be a manifestation of the “feminine genius”?  One assumes that a woman would bring a different perspective.]

It is another thing to think of service as power and try, as the world does, to meet the quota for this power. I maintain, furthermore, that the devaluation of the great mystery of maternity, which has been the modus operandi of the dominant culture, has a related role in the general disorientation of women. The ideology of profit has stooped to the instrumentalization of women, not recognizing the greatest contribution that — incontrovertibly — they can make to society and to the world.

Also, the Church is not a political government in which it is right to demand adequate representation. The Church is something quite different; the Church is the Body of Christ and, in her, each one is a part according to what Christ established. Moreover, in the Church it is not a question of masculine and feminine roles but rather of roles that by divine will do or do not entail ordination. Whatever a layman can do, so can a laywoman. [Ummm… I know this is an interview and not a theological treatise.  But a laywoman cannot be ordained and a layman can be.] What is important is having the specific and proper formation, then being a man or a woman does not matter.

It seems to me that we need greater insights into the connection of God’s design for the image of God as male and female and what the Sacrament of Holy Orders is which requires the “masculine genius” and excludes the “feminine genius”.  Does it involve sacrifice and the shedding of a victim’s blood?  But diaconate is not directed to sacrifice.  Priesthood is.  But diaconate, being a “grade” of Holy Orders, is open only to males.

In any event, I suppose sometime today, Monday, the second part will be released… if it hasn’t been already.

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  1. JimmyA says:

    Appointing a really media-savvy (old and new media) and orthodox woman to the post of Vatican press secretary would be a very clever move, in my view.

  2. Oneros says:

    “But diaconate, being a ‘grade’ of Holy Orders, is open only to males.”


    [What I wrote was correct.]

  3. Legisperitus says:

    Oneros – Thanks for keeping us up to date on the activities of the group that tried to close down Limbo.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Is not the entire question based on the fact that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity became Incarnate as a Man? If Jesus is truly God and truly Man and chose men, not out of any political or social pressure, but because He wanted it this way, why should we be redefining genius into male and female, a psychologically tortuous phrase? The fact is that women are not called by God to be priests, regardless of gifts, talents, status, or any other factors. I can bet that my IQ is much higher than that of the great saint, Joseph Cupertino, one of my personal patrons, but that does not make me eligible for the vocation to which he was called, or , to point to another popular example, St. John Vianney, a less than Latin scholar? Genius is defined as exceptional intelligence or gift, natural ability, or creativity. This word is misused in this context. The only definition we need is that of “role”. My “role” in the Mystical Body of Christ, and that of any other woman, differs from that of men.

    As to the maternal role or vocation, or even physical capability, we know that has been defamed in our sexualized culture which has separated sex from co-creation of children. This has nothing to do with the priesthood, and the maternal, female priests in the past (Canaan, ancient Greece,ancient Rome, ancient Egypt, etc.) were bad news–connected with demonology and sex, of course. That the Jews and then the Christians were asked by God to set up a patriarchy socially and spiritually makes sense. The priesthood is not about personal charisms and never has been. We are fortunate, as laity, when we have a priest with 10 talents and not 2.

  5. Imrahil says:

    In the Middle Ages, they used to say “the argument of authority is the weakest one”. Although sadly open to modernist interpretations, this remains true: We cannot put aside an argument of authority (opposing modernists), but it is a bad state of affairs if we remain alone with it. There is much of the sound “We’d like to have womanpriests but we can’t” among orthodox apologetists; and this, although the first response of an honest Catholic in a situation of controversy, really ought not to be the final say.

    To my view, it is a quite urgent task for theologists today to figure out (scholastically and speculatively) what this God-designed feature of Holy Orders may mean. There are some sentences of Cardinal Scheffczyk in this direction, plus an essay of C. S. Lewis, plus a lecture of Peter Kreeft. To use your argument, dear @Supertradmum, what is the meaning of the facts a) that God became male when He became man, b) that this is of much importance, not just for the reason that He had to choose a sex, given that those called to represent Him in specific priesthood must be equal to Him in sex?

    Of course, to try answers we ought not fear to be politically incorrect or say that men and women are different. In fact it were unsystematical and odd (which does not necessarily imply wrong) if the reservation of Holy Orders for men was not part of a specific difference between the two sexes as a whole (which, besides equality in dignity, can outside Holy Orders allow exceptions, but an exception is an exception). This, of course, would be contrary to the official state ideology of gender mainstreaming. But this ideology is, in my private judgment, contradoctrinary anyway.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Well, can we use Genesis and the fact that Man was made first? Or does that fall under mythology, for most people, or fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam

  7. Imrahil says:

    One thing is that from the fact that man was made first, we might deduce the aptness of Christ’s becoming male (or from Christ’s becoming male the aptness of man being created first), but not yet (at least with no lines of argumentation I know of in this moment) with necessity that priesthood is strictly reserved for male while royalty isn’t strictly.

    And then, in the way of reasoning I pointed to (and which I presume to be a human necessity; homo speculans should be the name of our species), this would only evoke the question: “Conceded that God created man first, but why did He?” – I came to think of this because I think that the thought “God arbitrarily did so, and this is plainly his right and due; let’s obey Him” creates (in matters of some importance) a certain interior repulse, however true the second and third part are; and this repulse is, well, not helpful, and to be avoided if possible.

    “Mythology”, needless to say, does not matter. It often only means that God has acted upon the world. And here we have to confess the most wondrous miracles anyway; one more does not impose further difficulty, especially given that the possibility of God acting so is clear anyway.

  8. JackintheVox says:

    therefore the hierarchical constitution is linked to the ministerial priesthood, which is reserved to men. [Note anything missing?]


  9. benedetta says:

    Oneros, Instead of clicking on ncr links what I click on are the links of Fr. Z that say “protest”. FYI.

    Does rabid secularist mindset and the dictatorship of relativism hate maternity. Does it favor letting the mystery of maternity unfold as God has created it good, or does it favor doing all sorts of things to and at it. Stewardship of creation doesn’t favor pumping women up on artificial hormones or in interrupting the process of gestation in order to kill, nor does it talk down to women to tell them they cannot be trusted with maternity and others must manage it for them.

    Roe was not supported or contributed by integral feminism in the first place (Stanton & Anthony obviously found such sentiments totally abhorrent to feminism and of course Roe was passed down to all by a completely male panel of several justices) and it would be sickening really to envision that the feminine genius is best channeled through advocating more and more of it to other women and their children not just in the US but as Catholics to believers in other cultures.

    Catholic women are doing a great deal to contribute to the Church’s voice. Just because the mainstream media pretends they do not exist, and even some Catholic media, doesn’t make it true. But any sort of interpretation of feminism, even if it is embraced by certain Catholic media, that is premised on being ashamed of maternity ultimately will fail in terms of universal acceptance. It may claim certain trophies in the short term but one has to ask how valuable those in fact are in the widest schema.

  10. Titus says:

    Whatever a layman can do, so can a laywoman

    What a silly thing to say. No laywoman was ever a father, just as no layman was ever a mother. [C’mon. He wasn’t talking about getting pregnant.] Even if one pretends to limit the discussion to ecclesiastical administrative jobs, [We don’t have to “pretend”. He was talking about that.] the statement is unnecessarily broad, for the reason Fr. Z observes and otherwise.

  11. “the devaluation of the great mystery of maternity, which has been the modus operandi of the dominant culture, has a related role in the general disorientation of women. The ideology of profit has stooped to the instrumentalization of women, not recognizing the greatest contribution that — incontrovertibly — they can make to society and to the world.”

    I would suggest that the dominant culture has devalued not just maternity but paternity as well. Parenting is presented as a burden rather than the greatest contribution persons can make to society. Fame, power, looks, these are rated as more valuable than a life dedicated to one’s family and by extension to the foundations of a healthy society.

  12. William Tighe says:

    Ceterum censeo “Ordinatio Diaconalem” esse promulgatam — with apologies to Cato the Elder.

  13. William Tighe says:

    Oh, dear, I should have written “Ordinationem Diaconalem” — sed aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus.

  14. JackintheVox says:

    therefore the hierarchical constitution is linked to the ministerial priesthood, which is reserved to men. [Note anything missing?]

    Or were you thinking “diaconate”?

  15. Alan Aversa says:

    Ite ad Thomam! He writes:

    [F]or since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions; thus […] in Extreme Unction it is necessary to have a sick man, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order.

  16. The sainted Thomas doesn’t seem to be helpful in this respect.

    I think you will tend to get more useful comments from, say, works about the “mulier fortis”. Things that compare Christ to the bridegroom/husband and laypeople to the Bride probably would also help.

  17. Elizabeth D says:

    Okay it is not possible for women to be ordained as priests, maybe the Cardinal gave us some credit for already knowing that?

    He doesn’t mention consecrated women who are very important. Women pray, sacrifice, work, adore the Blessed Sacrament. Women are catechists and teachers, give all sorts of help, do all the humble things including being friends with people. Women keep everything human and create community, as we have been doing since Eve.

    I am not really that classically feminine, I am not really a person with lots of friends. I am more of a criticial person than an encouraging person, not necessarily proud of that. I have started dressing more feminine in long skirts since I was forbidden to correct the young women about immodesty but nobody has forbidden me to be a good example.

  18. Alan Aversa says:

    @Suburbanbanshee: Are you saying St. Thomas was a misogynist? He certainly was not; he wrote that creation would be imperfect had God not created woman (Summa Theologiæ Iª q. 92 a. 1 ad 3).

    I think your issue is that St. Thomas writes that “a woman is in the state of subjection.” Summa Theologiæ Iª q. 92 a. 1 explains:

    [S]ubjection and limitation were a result of sin, for to the woman was it said after sin (Genesis 3:16): “Thou shalt be under the man’s power”; and Gregory says that, “Where there is no sin, there is no inequality.”
    Subjection is twofold. One is servile, by virtue of which a superior makes use of a subject for his own benefit; and this kind of subjection began after sin. There is another kind of subjection which is called economic or civil, whereby the superior makes use of his subjects for their own benefit and good; and this kind of subjection existed even before sin. For good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates.

    Although this video is by a sedevacantist, he illustrates well how widowed matriarchs rely on men (their priests, authors of Catholic periodicals, etc.) to understand the crisis in the Church after Vatican II. Why don’t most women figure it out themselves? Why aren’t there as many female professional theologians as male ones? “[B]ecause in man the discretion of reason predominates.”

    Am I being sexist by saying this? I don’t think so. Women and men differ all the way down to every single cell that comprises them. If we do not know what distinguishes men and women, then we certainly do not believe Genesis 1:27: “[…] male and female he created them.”

  19. Alan Aversa says:

    Also, that St. Thomas says “in man the discretion of reason predominates” does not mean he thinks women aren’t as smart as men. Both women and men have intellectual souls. It is just that men tend to use discursive thought more than women. St. Thomas says reasoning is actually a defect of the intellect whereby humans are below the angels—who, being pure intelligences, understand things intuitively, i.e., without ratiocination or discursion—but above the animals, who are incapable of intellectual operations.

  20. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Alan Aversa: Now this is food for thought.

    As positive, unrhethorical questions:
    1. How does the tendency of men to be more discretive in reason come into an absolute? For, and this is no accusation of sexism, nor a compromise with political correctness: I do see that a particular women may very well be more discretive in reasoning than a particular man.
    2. What in particular is the difference between infused science as higher than intellect, and instinct (which, I believe, is defined as “a reasonable action in an irreasonable being”)? Given the fact that we often speak of a female instinct – which is a metaphor, of course (they are not irreasonable), but still the direction would be in accord with what you say?
    3. What does the Sacrifice of the Cross have to do with reasoning?
    4. – and this is a rather rhethorical question and not my opinion, but a thought quite prevalent among not few people, I guess – “wasn’t religion to be this safe haven from the ugly world of reason, a place to be secure in the maternal bosom of the irrational or maybe superrational forces? Isn’t faith the trust in the unprovable?” [Note the inverted commas. This is certainly not my opinion.]

    Dear @Elisabeth D,
    please do not take it as personal criticism, but this is – forgive my frankness – another mistake orthodox apologists make. I’ve some times seen the exclusion of women from the priesthood defended with the apparent ulterior thought: “Other things than priesthood are of quite much importance, after all.” Used as argument, this draws the perception (which you didn’t want to say) “Priesthood is not so important, after all.” – I do not draw into doubt the importance of the ways of both female charity, and charity open to females, but priests are important, in a way of importance that is equal to no other vocation, and even positively outranking many a vocation. Hence, to exclude women from the office is a differenciation, in another Latin words, a discrimination, to their disadvantage. Note that I’m not attacking this unchangeable constitution of the Church, but appeasement politics aren’t helpful.

  21. Elizabeth D says:

    I have tried to interpret what you are saying Imrahil, but it seems like by the same reasoning, simply being female is to the disadvantage of women. [You are suggesting, perhaps, that God makes mistakes.] It follows from being female that I cannot validly receive Holy Orders. [Yes, that follows.] I agree that the vocation of a priest outranks any vocation to which I could aspire. But is it really to my disadvantage if others outrank me? [No. Those who are happy in heaven are not happy in the same degree. Yes, none of the blessed in heaven would envy the others.] Maybe my natural liking for men enables me to positively enjoy looking up to priests, in whom I see not just the highly imperfect Fr Joe but (inseparable from Fr Joe) Jesus Himself, the Beloved of my soul? [That would be a real gift.]

  22. Anonsters says:

    Alan Aversa makes a mistake in thinking that everything one finds in St. Thomas is stamped with holy authority or the magisterial sanction of the Church. Just because it’s in St. Thomas doesn’t make it so. Unless we’re to believe that everything material is, in fact, made out of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water? (ST I, q. 91, a. 1)

    “For good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates.”

    That, of course, does directly imply that women are naturally “subject” to men (in the order of civil and domestic governance) because men possess reason to a higher degree than women. Which is utter nonsense. But to deny something as simplistic and, yes, sexist as that is not ipso facto to claim that there are no differences between men and women, between maleness and femaleness. So that one or the other sex is naturally subject to the other, naturally more perfect in reason than the other, naturally more loving or affectionate than the other, etc. simply doesn’t follow from “male and female he created them.”

    And then there’s this, also from ST I, q. 91, a. 1:

    “It was necessary for woman to be made, as the Scripture says, as a “helper” to man; not, indeed, as a helpmate in other works, as some say, since man can be more efficiently helped by another man in other works; but as a helper in the work of generation.”

    So men are always more helpful to men than women are, in everything other than “the work of generation.” This is also nonsense, and there simply is no reason to believe it to be true if you actually look out at the world and the relationships of men and women. Of course, it wasn’t necessarily nonsense in the 13th century. I certainly don’t presume to slight the profound intellectual accomplishments of St. Thomas. But these ideas aren’t exactly etched permanently in the deposit of faith in the way that, say, the dogma of the Most Holy Trinity is.

    In summary, you can’t find all the answers in St. Thomas. Denying that St. Thomas had the last word on how to understand the relationship between men and women in the order of creation does not slight his profound importance in other areas of doctrine. Conversely, just because St. Thomas’ ideas hold a central place in the Church’s theological reflection doesn’t mean that everything he ever said or wrote is either binding or even in the neighborhood of being true. Although St. Thomas undoubtedly holds a special place in the philosophical and theological tradition, nonetheless, in the words of Bl. John Paul II (Fides et Ratio, 49): “The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.”

  23. Elizabeth D says:

    Yes, thanks be to God!

  24. Imrahil says:

    Sorry for being unclear. I only wanted to say: The fact that the object of faithful life is holiness and holiness does not depend on the clerical state etc. etc. does not take away the other fact that women have one right less in the Church.

    This is the case for justified reasons: the Will of Jesus Christ, for one thing (I commented here something about a need of speculation why he did want this to be). But, nevertheless, it is the case.

    This, imho, objectively true fact gets further weight by another fact, namely that only very pious women will do so much as listen to the argument about eternal happiness and the joys of looking up to him who stands for us in Christ’s place.

  25. Brad says:

    Ah, Mary. Woman. Most beloved daughter of the Father, spouse of the Holy Spirit, Theotokos, Immaculate Conception, epitome of creatures, model of creatures, Bride of Christ, Mother of the Church, model of the Church, Queen of heaven and earth, creature who sits at the right hand of the Son, who in turn sits at the right hand of the Father. And there is no place for women in the Church?

    The devil lies and people buy his lies. May she destroy his lies — with ease.

  26. robtbrown says:

    1. It is not true that women have one less (fewer) right in the Church than men. No one has a right to the priesthood–neither man nor woman. The only exception is a transitional deacon–although no one has a right to the diaconate.

    2. There is no ontological argument excluding women from the priesthood. The priesthood excludes women because Christ chose men. That is why Ordinatio Sacerdotalis says that the Church does not have the faculty to ordain women.

    3. There are many arguments, however, that are ex convenientia (of appropriateness). In addition to those of St Thomas noted above, von Balthasar also wrote on the subject.

    4. IMHTO, there are two reasons for the confusion. 1) The overemphasis on pastoral ministry at the expense of the understanding that the priest is primarily the one who enters the sanctuary to offer the Sacrifice of the Eucharist. 2) Sisters moving into various pastoral duties previously considered priestly. I don’t know of any woman living a strict contemplative life who has aligned herself with the women’s ordination movement.

  27. Imrahil says:

    Ad 1. Yes, and then again, coming to think of it, I do not have any right to the next breath of oxygen. Neither to the Holy Eucharist even if I’m in the state of grace (if I am, may God preserve, if I’m not, may God bring there). See what I mean?

    Please take my apology for using incorrect words. There is no right to the priesthood. There is a right to, being a Catholic male celibate and having grounds to suspect that God may have called you to the priesthood of the New Covenant, present oneself to one’s Ordinary and, although – again – their is no right for this Sacrament, there does be an ecclesiastical law which ensures that the said Ordinary may not reject one on arbitrary grounds. This is what I meant.

    Ad 2,3. I never meant anything more than an argument ex convenientia. v. Balthasar? Interesting.

    Ad 4, 1). This, of course, should be clear enough. The priest is he who offers the Sacrifice. [On a side note, I allow myself to count the “pastoral duties” as an additional (unneeded) argument against women’s ordination, given the monopoly which women have among non-priests in the said and similar positions. It can’t do damage if in an elementary school with no male teacher at all, at least the parish priest who teaches religion fulfils this role.]

  28. Oneros says:

    “Thanks for keeping us up to date on the activities of the group that tried to close down Limbo.”

    Well, no, they did no such thing. THAT document actually reached a very mild and level-headed conclusion if you read its last few paragraphs, it’s position is basically “agnostic” on the question, admitting that a lot of theological speculation has built up around something not covered by Revelation. But it doesn’t condemn that speculative tradition either.

    The commission used to be chaired by Ratzinger himself, for crying out loud.

    I think the best argument for deaconesses not being a Sacrament but merely a sacramental is an argument from the unicity of Orders. But, on the other hand, there is a clear difference between a priest (presbyter or bishop) who acts in persona Christi…and a deacon who does not, and whose role has always been more linked to something like the symbolism of Ecclesia standing at the foot of the cross catching the blood in a chalice (the deacon’s proper instrument, after all). For me it’s an open question, I can see the argument both ways.

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